POLITICAL CONVENTIONS THIS WEEKEND
Democrats face tough choice for party future
Two years ago, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean fired up the Democrats gathered in their last convention. This weekend, local comedian Andy Bumatai will give the speech, but don't think this convention is a joke.
As the Republicans go into what is expected to be a love-in for Gov. Linda Lingle this weekend, the Democrats open what could be a bloodbath as they square off on everything from leadership of the party to a challenge to incumbent U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka.
The biggest test will come as party members at the three-day convention at the Hilton Hawaiian Village consider the campaigns of Akaka, the 81-year-old senator who has been in Congress since winning a U.S. House seat in 1976, and U.S. Rep. Ed Case, who at 53 has served in both the state and U.S. House starting in 1994.
"It is an extremely important convention for my party. We have our future to consider. I have put the issue of the next generation of leadership for my party on the table," Case said.
The Democrats, Case said, are reflecting a political culture that "is dysfunctional and not broadly inclusive."
"It is not adopting a future-oriented, long-term vision," he said.
Case would like Democrats to see him as the party's future and Akaka as linked to the past.
Outgoing party Chairman Brickwood Galuteria disagrees with Case.
"He was probably right five years ago. Then, there was an argument to be made, but not today," Galuteria said in an interview.
"The party has changed, and now we are ready to accept the full spectrum of the political landscape," Galuteria said.
Speaking yesterday from Washington, Akaka also said he needs to start at the convention for votes.
"I look upon them (Democratic delegates) as a base from which we can expand. The more Democrats that support me, it will be an add-on to go out to the community."
Akaka said he thought the Democrats would be "looking for people who can bring about good change, and bring this good change through seniority and experience. This is what counts. We don't have time to wait."
In comparison, Case said he is not looking for much from the convention.
"The decisions that will determine whether I am or are not a senator will not be made at the convention this weekend. From a personal political perspective, it is not going to be the apex of my campaign, but it is an extremely important convention for my party," Case said.
Galuteria, a veteran radio personality and award-winning Hawaiian entertainer, jokes that the party is always criticized for running everything "out of the back room."
"When people talk about this one particular back room that makes all the decisions for the party, they don't realize there are about 15 back rooms, and this chair just goes from one to the next making sure we are all on the same page," Galuteria said.
The convention is a swan song of sorts for Galuteria, who is completing his two-year term and not running for re-election. The party chairmanship is being sought by former state Sen. Mike McCartney, who is stepping down from his position as president and CEO of PBS-Hawaii, and Jimmy Toyama, former Oahu Committee party chairman.
McCartney originally toyed with running for governor or lieutenant governor this year, but decided to postpone any future elections.
Galuteria said he might not be through with politics. He briefly considered running for Congress or for an open Windward Oahu state Senate seat vacated by Republican Sen. Bob Hogue. Now he says he is thinking about running for lieutenant governor or perhaps taking a job as a business consultant or even staying with his morning radio show.
But Galuteria said he is considering a race for Congress or governor.
Today, the Hawaii Democrats have two candidates for governor: former Councilman and state Sen. Randy Iwase, and Waianae Harbormaster William Aila.
Neither man has run in a statewide campaign before.
Both will be given a chance to gain exposure, with time reserved for them to address the convention Sunday morning. Democrats, including Galuteria, had asked Big Island Mayor Harry Kim about the race for governor, but he has not committed to the campaign.
The lack of a marquee candidate for governor has not stopped a flood of Democratic officeholders from running for the 2nd Congressional District seat left vacant as Case runs for the Senate.
So far, state Rep. Brian Schatz, city Councilman Nestor Garcia and state Sens. Colleen Hanabusa, Clayton Hee, Gary Hooser and Ron Menor are running, along with former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono and former Sen. Matt Matsunaga all planning to run in the Sept. 23 Democratic primary election.
DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION SCHEDULE
What: Democratic State Convention: "No Ka Pono Nui (For the Good of All)"
Where: Hilton Hawaiian Village, Coral Ballroom
2:30 p.m.: Opening
7-11 p.m.: Democratic platform committee meetings
8:25 a.m.: Report on the state of the party, Brickwood Galuteria, party chairman
Lunch: Al Harrington, master of ceremonies; keynote speech by Andy Bumatai
1 p.m.: Speech by U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye
1:45 p.m.: Speech by U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka
3:45 p.m.: Speech by U.S. Rep. Ed Case
8:15-8:30 a.m.: Speeches by candidates for governor, William Aila and Randy Iwase
9 a.m.: Election of party chairman
10:30 a.m.: Speech by U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie and candidate rally